Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"More and more stuff about the same people"

I got a kick out of Dave Itzkoff's NYT interview with Ken Follett:
Q. What compelled you, when you were still a newspaper journalist, to write your first novel?

A. The spur was a financial crisis. My car broke down, and I couldn’t afford to get it fixed. And another journalist at the newspaper had written a thriller and the advance he got from the publisher was £200, which was pretty much exactly the amount of money I needed to get my car fixed. I did not figure that out until life began to show me I was a so-so newspaper reporter, and as a novelist I might have something special.
Last night's light reading (I have been falling back on the traditional Davidsonian consolations in times of trouble, novels and alcohol!): Sam Bourne's The Last Testament. Not so much my kind of thriller, and certainly not up to the standard of Follett at his best, but eminently readable, with the proviso that it is hard for me to imagine the cognitive makeup that leads to such intelligent, well-informed and "pacey" thriller-writing with so little character development or distinction in terms of voice - but I think that each writer has a different set of strengths, advantages that feel deeply natural and that largely determine the sort of book he or she writes. It sounds more like the punchline to a joke, but a psychologist, a neurologist and a literary critic should collaborate on an article about what sorts of novels are produced by people with different cognitive processing styles...

1 comment:

  1. I'm reminded of Eliot's putdown of Dryden, that "For all his prodigious intelligence, Dryden had a commonplace mind." Would like to be able to say the same thing less judgmentally, so I approve of "cognitive processing styles." Naively one might think impatience is the key -- e.g. cows couldn't write thrillers. But if that were all, one would expect Richard Price to be a better describer than he is.

    (NB my word verification thing for this post is "rearsit." Strangest one I've had so far.)